KISSIMMEE, Fla.— Though Jeff Coble of Manson, N.C. was the clear-cut winner of the inaugural ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Series Championship on Saturday, he’s thanking another competitor for helping him clinch the win.
Coble, who closed the tournament with a three-day total of 27 pounds, 11 ounces, credited his long-term fishing partner and friend David Wright, who also competed and ended in fourth place with 26-1.
Coble said he and Wright, friends for more than 10 years, routinely practice together, devise pre-tournament strategies and offer tips to each other during tournaments. That sharing of information is legal in BASS tournaments so long as both individuals are competing. The two also agreed — a long time ago — to split their earnings evenly.
“David and I have fished together for about 10 years,” Coble explained. “We work together and split all of our prize money right down the middle.”
So how does a partnership — that includes estimated earnings of nearly $1 million — work? “When money is involved like this, you have to be really good friends,” Wright said. “I mean that.”
Still, while Coble will share his $100,000 top prize with his partner, he won’t be able to split the priceless opportunity that came with it: the last available berth into the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic, on West Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Feb. 24-26.
Coble joins 50 other anglers already qualified for the Bassmaster Classic. While the 2002 Bassmaster Classic competitor flipped a Zoom Craw throughout most of this championship tournament, he may need to change his strategy for the Classic — and if Wright is familiar with the waters, BASS rules prohibit him from helping.
“I didn’t really fish that great this week, to tell you the truth,” Coble said. “I was miserable out there today, but it is all about the decisions you make on the water the whole week.”
Also, non-boater Chris Woodward of Williamson, Ga., finished the tournament with 13 pounds and 5 ounces, winning his class and taking home $50,000.
South Carolina fisherman Jason Quinn of Lake Wylie finished in ninth place with 17 pounds and 11 ounces to win $1,450.00, while non-boaters Billy Schwach of Charleston totalled 12 pounds and 5 ounces to finish second and collect $3,750.00 and Greg Sigmon of Heath Springs weighed 10 pounds and 12 ounces to finish fifth and collect $1,500.00.